Elephant death: Kerala CM rues 'campaign against state', 'bigotry and hate'

"The move to question the self-respect of the state cannot be accepted," he said

pinarayi-assembly Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan | Onmanorama

After the backlash over the death of a pregnant elephant after it consumed pineapples filled with crackers in Kerala, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan assured that justice will be done and that attempts to tarnish the image of the state cannot be tolerated. Vijayan said there was an "organised campaign" at the national level against Kerala and Malappuram district, and accused the central ministers of being involved in spreading contradicting facts and statements. "There is an organised campaign against Kerala and Malappuram at national level.... it is really unfortunate that certain people are using this incident to tarnish the image of the state and Malappuram in particular." 

The elephant had consumed a pineapple filled with powerful fire crackers which exploded in the animal's mouth in the Silent Valley Forest, in Palakkad district bordering Malappuram, and died about a week later. The elephant died at Velliyar River on May 27 after efforts by forest personnel to bring it to the river bank using two other trained elephants failed. The postmortem revealed that the pachyderm was pregnant. Her jaw was broken and she was unable to eat after she chewed the pineapple and it exploded in her mouth. Such traps are common among farmers in forest fringe areas to keep wild animals (especially boars) from damaging their crops, besides preventing them from entering into their habitats. Three suspects are under the scanner. 

"In spite of having clarified that the incident took place in Palakkad and not in Malappuram as being propagated, people including central ministers are still not willing to correct the mistake. It now looks like they are doing it deliberately. This is not acceptable and any efforts to spread hatred using this incident will not be tolerated," Vijayan told reporters.

The move to question the self-respect of the state cannot be accepted, the chief minister said, adding the attack was coming at a time when it was battling the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked about Maneka Gandhi's statement that the incident happened in Malappuram, Vijayan said, "If those who had made mistakes are not ready to rectify it, then it means it was a deliberate attempt".

Maneka Gandhi questioned the inaction in Malappuram district and asked why Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi was not taking any action. Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said it is not in Indian culture to feed firecrackers and kill, and that the government would not leave any stone unturned to bring the culprit to book.

In a series of tweets, Vijayan wrote, "In a tragic incident in Palakkad district, a pregnant elephant has lost its life. Many of you have reached out to us. We want to assure you that your concerns will not go in vain. Justice will prevail."

"Having said that, we are saddened by the fact some have used this tragedy to unleash a hate campaign. Lies built upon inaccurate descriptions and half truths were employed to obliterate the truth. Some even tried to import bigotry into the narrative. Wrong priorities."

The Congress on Thursday accused the BJP of giving a "communal colour" to the incident and said the saffron party leaders were deliberately spreading "false information" on the issue. The opposition party said while the incident took place in Palakkad, BJP leaders and right-wing trolls were relating it to the neighbouring Malappuram district.

Congress general secretary (Organisation) K.C. Venugopal demanded that the BJP must tender an unqualified and unconditional public apology for giving a communal colour to the "most unfortunate incident". The tragic and inhumane death of the pregnant elephant caused by biting a pineapple stuffed with explosives or fire crackers in Palakkad district in Kerala is a most cruel incident, he said in a statement. It invited condemnation and criticism across the world, Venugopal said, adding that any kind of mindless and unreasonable violence against wildlife was totally unacceptable and unjustifiable. "However, senior BJP leaders like Maneka Gandhi and Cabinet Ministers like Prakash Javadekar are deliberately spreading false information on this unfortunate tragedy," he said.

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said the climate in the country has become so bitter that even in the tragic death of an elephant, some were trying to misrepresent facts to twist it into an issue of one community versus another.